The next book choice for the Librarium is G. K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday. The subtitle to this book, which is A Nightmare, gives only the slightest hint at the strange twists and turns that Chesterton takes the reader through until coming to a conclusion that seems to have come out of nowhere.
I don’t want to use the word allegory or any such nonsense. All I can say about this book is that Chesterton has a way of making a seemingly simple and poetic period detective story and turning it into a kind of treatise on creation (and more).
I recommend reading the enotes.com introduction to the book. In the right-hand column of the enotes.com page for the book, you’ll find a treasury of essays and critiques written on the novel, ranging from the early 1900’s and on. I would recommend, however, reading the actual book first to avoid spoilers.
Other related Links:
- Wikipedia entry (Warning: spoilers. This is not a book you want spoiled before you get to the end on your own.)
- Dale Ahlquist’s lecture
- Sonja West’s essay
- Hilaire Belloc’s essay on Chesterton
Discussion questions (provided by the Modern Library edition):
- What is the Council’s objective throughout the book? Do you think it ultimately represents Good or Evil? Is such a distinction possible, in Chesterton’s view?
- Discuss the Council’s role as a secret society. What is important about their ability to function as a group and their determination to keep their activities secret? What is the point of their conspiracy?
- What is the meaning of the book’s title? Is personal identity less important than collective identity, in Chesterton’s view? Does Syme, in effect, lose his identity? What does he gain?
- Who, or what, does Sunday represent?